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Letter: Working to Reform Our State

Across New York, taxpayers are angry like never before because state government is not working for them. In light of the state’s $3.2 billion budget deficit, 26-year high unemployment and deteriorating fiscal condition, taxpayers should be angry at Albany’s broken status quo.

Our Assembly Republican Conference has repeatedly sounded an alarm bell about the coming fiscal tsunami that has swamped state finances. Every member of our Conference voted against the 2009-10 State Budget, which contained $8.2 billion in job-killing tax and fee hikes, along with a reckless hike in government spending of nearly 10 percent.  We said then, and were proven correct, that a bad budget would explode the state’s deficit.

Governor Paterson called the state Legislature back into special session on Nov. 9 to address this shortfall. Unfortunately, political infighting between the governor and the Democrat majorities in the Assembly and Senate forced legislators to sit idle for the better part of four weeks, as gridlock ruled and no Deficit Reduction Plan (DRP) received an up or down vote. A great deal of time and, more importantly, taxpayer money, was wasted until the gridlock was broken Wednesday and a DRP finally enacted.

The DRP was long overdue and, frankly, could have been done months ago. The DRP’s cost-savings did not go far enough and it was $500 million short of the state’s $3.2 billion budget deficit.  Especially troubling was the DRP’s reliance on federal school aid funds that were supposed to be utilized next year.  Sadly, this is just the latest in a long line of Albany’s fiscal shell games.

Without question, more must be done to restore New York’s fiscal health. We still need real, substantive spending reductions including state agency consolidations, a ban on unfunded mandates and lifting the crushing financial burden on localities and school districts. New York still needs a property tax and state spending cap, and further Medicaid reform to protect taxpayers. Our Conference has led the fight on these issues and will continue working to reform our state so it’s the more affordable place to live, work and raise a family that New Yorkers deserve.

Brian M. Kolb

Assembly Minority Leader